Being the President means that, in addition to many other duties, one sometimes has sad news to report. This is one of those times.
On June 21, we lost our webmaster, Ken Jackson, to complications from a bone marrow transplant he received years earlier to treat leukemia. Ken never told us about his condition, but some of us had suspected he wasn’t well. We had no idea it was as serious as it was so his passing came as a shock to all of us.
Ken, a member of Vancouver Centre since 2012, first joined council back in April of 2016. As a software developer, his skills were essential to getting our web presence into proper shape and making our council emails function more effectively, improving both reliability and security as our one-man IT department. When we were forced to go virtual last year due to covid, Ken’s skills proved invaluable, not only getting our lectures online, but enabling us to quickly pivot the GA that Vancouver Centre was hosting from an in-person to an online event. His torch has now been passed to the capable hands of his two assistants, Karimbir Singh and Renuka Pampana, who will keep things running smoothly into the future.
Ken also loved public outreach and was a constant presence at our many events, engaging with the public and sharing his love of astronomy, often with his partner Sumo at his side. He also volunteered at sfu’s Starry Nights public astronomy events on Friday nights, where Howard Trottier described him as a “kind and gentle presence.”
Ken was a loving father to three daughters. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” programme (https://plancanada.ca/because-i-am-a-girl). The Vancouver Centre has made such a donation in Ken’s honour.
For as long as he can remember, Dr. Phil Plait has been in love with science.
“When I was maybe four or five years old, my dad brought home a cheapo department store telescope. He aimed it at Saturn that night. One look, and that was it. I was hooked,” he says.
After earning his doctorate in astronomy at the University of Virginia, he worked on the Hubble Space Telescope as a nasa contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He began a career in public outreach and education with the Bad Astronomy website and blog, debunking bad science and popular misconceptions. The book Bad Astronomy was released in 2002, followed in 2008 by Death From The Skies! He was most recently seen in “Crash Course Astronomy,” a 46-part educational web series he wrote and hosted that has over 20 million views. He hosted the TV show “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe” on the Discovery Channel in 2010 and was the head science writer for “Bill Nye Saves the World” on Netflix, which debuted in 2017. Dr. Plait’s blog has been hosted by Discover Magazine and Slate, and is now on Syfy Wire.
Dr. Plait has given talks about science and pseudoscience across the US and internationally. He uses images, audio, and video clips in entertaining and informative multimedia presentations packed with humour and backed by solid science.
He has spoken at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute (home of Hubble), the Hayden Planetarium in NYC and many other world-class museums and planetaria, conferences, astronomy clubs, colleges & universities, and community groups. He has appeared on cnn, Fox News, msnbc, Pax TV, Tech TV, Syfy, Radio BBC, Air America, NPR, and many other television and internet venues. His writing has appeared in Discover magazine, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy magazine, Night Sky magazine, Space.com, and more.
Synopsis: Since the 1990s, astronomers have found over four thousand (and counting!) exoplanets, alien worlds orbiting other stars. These planets orbit a wide variety of stars, and themselves are all wildly different; huge, small, hot, cold, airless, or with thick atmospheres. As we learn more about them, we come closer to answering the Big Questions: Is there another Earth out there? And if so, will it support life? Is Earth unique, or is the galaxy filled with blue-green worlds that look achingly like our own? In this engaging and fun talk, astronomer Phil Plait will show you how we find these planets, and how our own compares to them.
These annual memorial lectures honour Paul Sykes. Paul actively pursued his interest in astronomy, attending conferences and joining RASC, where he became a Life Member. Paul Sykes passed away in October 2005 at the age of 87 and left the Vancouver Centre a generous gift.
Paul Sykes was born in Hummelston, Pennsylvania USA in 1918. He acquired his interest in astronomy at an early age. During his teens he published his own monthly astronomical column and gave at least one lecture.
He was an officer in the United States Air Force, served in the Pacific during WWII attaining the rank of Captain. He was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, the U.S. Air Medal, the Oak Leaf and Cluster and the Bronze Star. Following the war he attended UBC earning a degree in Physics in 1948. He rejoined the United States Air Force and attended the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology, studying nuclear physics. He worked on the NERVA Project, a nuclear rocket development effort and rose to the rank of Major.
Paul was appointed a lecturer and administrator in Physics at UBC and remained there until retirement in 1983.